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Homo Duplex

Barry Glassner, 5 May 1983

Positivism and Sociology: Explaining Social Life 
by Peter Halfpenny.
Allen and Unwin, 141 pp., £10.95, October 1982, 0 04 300084 3
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The Rules of Sociological Method and Selected Texts on Sociology and its Method 
by Emile Durkheim and Steven Lukes, translated by W.D. Halls.
Macmillan, 264 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 333 28071 7
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The Sociological Domain: The Durkheimians and the Founding of French Sociology 
edited by Philippe Besnard.
Cambridge, 296 pp., £24, March 1983, 0 521 23876 5
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Durkheim and the Study of Suicide 
by Steve Taylor.
Macmillan, 249 pp., £15, July 1982, 0 333 28645 6
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... High in the ranks of those to blame for the residue of positivism in sociology has been Emile Durkheim, who among the founding sociologists (Marx, Weber, Simmel, Durkheim) was most sympathetic to positivist dogma. Unlike Marx, Durkheim is not represented by sections of ...


Michael Burns, 18 November 1993

Death and the After-Life in Modern France 
by Thomas Kselman.
Princeton, 413 pp., £40, March 1993, 0 691 00889 2
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... Nineteenth-century demographers tried to take the measure of death. Years before Emile Durkheim, they counted suicide rates as barometers of social dissolution, and their rage for mathematical precision extended into all corners of ‘mortal knowledge’. Reflecting contemporary anxieties over urban growth, urban squalor, industrial accidents, the persistence of cholera, and, later in the century, the declining birthrate and the spread of tuberculosis, the new ranks of social scientists calculated the consequences of a rapidly changing French society ...

Abortion, Alienation, Anomie

Peter Medawar, 2 December 1982

Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary 
by Robert Nisbet.
Harvard, 318 pp., £12.25, November 1982, 0 674 70065 1
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... carried too far: I thought it strange to read an entry headed ‘Anomie’ that made no mention of Emile Durkheim or of Robert Merton. ‘Anomy’ is declared obs. by the OED but the French variant anomie stands for a sort of sociological deficiency disease: it refers to the ‘lost’ and rootless state of an individual or community that lacks norms of ...

Eat it

Terry Eagleton: Marcel Mauss, 8 June 2006

Marcel Mauss: A Biography 
by Marcel Fournier, translated by Jane Marie Todd.
Princeton, 442 pp., £22.95, January 2006, 0 691 11777 2
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... burial. When the human sciences hit their stride at the end of the 19th century with the work of Durkheim, Marcel Mauss, James Frazer, Henri Lévy-Bruhl and others, this rigorously rationalist mode of investigation, as in some uncanny return of the repressed, found itself reverting again and again to religious subjects. As ...
The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age 
by Simon Schama.
Collins, 698 pp., £19.95, September 1987, 9780002178013
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... A confessed eclectic, Schama has drawn some of his inspiration from social anthropologists (from Emile Durkheim to Mary Douglas), some from Freud, and some from the history of mentalities – the Dutch word is mentaliteitsgeschiedenis – as currently practised in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Schama focuses neither on events nor on ...

They were less depressed in the Middle Ages

John Bossy: Suicide, 11 November 1999

Marx on Suicide 
edited by Eric Plaut and Kevin Anderson, translated by Gabrielle Edgcomb.
Northwestern, 152 pp., £11.20, May 1999, 0 8101 1632 4
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Suicide in the Middle Ages, Vol I: The Violent Against Themselves 
by Alexander Murray.
Oxford, 510 pp., £30, January 1999, 0 19 820539 2
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A History of Suicide: Voluntary Death in Western Culture 
by Georges Minois, translated by Lydia Cochrane.
Johns Hopkins, 420 pp., £30, December 1998, 0 8018 5919 0
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... human species restored to all its members, would such symptoms of social disease be eradicated. Emile Durkheim took account of neither Peuchet nor Marx in his celebrated Suicide of 1897, a chilly work which claimed to document ‘social facts’ without needing to recount the feelings of the individuals concerned. He broke suicides down into ...

The Sense of the Self

Galen Strawson, 18 April 1996

... differences are those that can be found within a given culture. The cultural relativism of Emile Durkheim and others, elegantly renewed by Clifford Geertz and orthodox in large parts of the academic community is based on a serious underestimation of the genetic determinants of human nature, and a false view of mental development. It’s partly for ...


Ian Hacking, 18 December 1986

How institutions think 
by Mary Douglas.
Syracuse, 146 pp., $19.95, July 1986, 0 8156 2369 0
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... avant-garde, wants to put back the clock. In particular she wants to return to ideas propounded by Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss at the beginning of the century. The two men jointly wrote a monograph, ‘Primitive Classification’, in 1903. In 1912 Durkheim published his Elementary Forms of Religious Life. That was ...

Daughters, Dress Shirts, Spotted Dick

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 3 April 1980

... plain. The claim has been pressed in many ways. Its two classical protagonists have been French. Emile Durkheim and his collaborators in the équipe of the Année Sociologique started from the strong assumption that societies were coherent, argued that this coherence lay in their morale and suggested that this morale could be seen in the correspondence ...
Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Oxford, 205 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812980 7
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Representing the English Renaissance 
edited by Stephen Greenblatt.
California, 372 pp., $42, February 1988, 0 520 06129 2
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... given the concern with collective representations, it is surprising to find no reference to Emile Durkheim. However, other essays in the volume have little in common with Greenblatt’s work, beyond some vague concern for the relation between literature, history and society, and might equally well have been published in another journal. It is ...

Hyenas, Institutions and God

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 20 July 1995

The Construction of Social Reality 
by John Searle.
Allen Lane, 241 pp., £20, May 1995, 0 7139 9112 7
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... think about this matter for more than a hundred years. The first generation, however, people like Emile Durkheim, Georg Simmel and Max Weber, lacked what Searle regards as the necessary equipment with which to tackle it. They had no theories of the kind that Searle has spent his own career spelling out and defending in books on speech acts, expression ...

Society as a Broadband Network

William Davies, 2 April 2020

... mean something after all?Perhaps the boldest conceptual vision of society belongs to Émile Durkheim. In Suicide: A Study in Sociology (1897), he argued that society was a ‘social fact’, which couldn’t be reduced to matters of psychology or economics. Individuals were constrained and shaped by trends and norms that were manifest only at a ...

Pareto and Elitism

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 3 July 1980

The Other Pareto 
edited by Placido Bucolo.
Scolar, 308 pp., £15, April 1980, 0 85967 516 5
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by G. Lowell Field and John Higley.
Routledge, 135 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 7100 0487 7
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Elites in Australia 
by John Higley and Don Smart.
Routledge, 317 pp., £9.50, July 1979, 9780710002228
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... have little interest. They are often referred to in that litany of contemporaries, like Emile Durkheim in France and Max Weber in Germany, who had similar political views and not dissimilar theoretical ambitions. But they are less often read. In fact, they can scarcely be said to be discoveries at all. They amount, in essence, to a commitment ...

Walsingham’s Plumber

Patrick Collinson: John Bossy, 5 July 2001

Under the Molehill: An Elizabethan Spy Story 
by John Bossy.
Yale, 189 pp., £18.95, May 2001, 0 300 08400 5
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... as blood feuds in Corsica and an inordinate love of organ music in Vienna. And then there was Emile Durkheim on the elementary forms of religious life, the subject of Bossy’s inaugural lecture at the University of York. Whatever drew Bossy to these subjects was not their oldness: he is not an antiquarian. Rather, his ingenious explorations ...

The Exotic West

Peter Burke, 6 February 1986

The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci 
by Jonathan Spence.
Faber, 350 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 571 13239 1
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Chine et Christianisme: Action et Réaction 
by Jacques Gernet.
Gallimard, 342 pp., frs 154, May 1982, 2 07 026366 5
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... Bloch, Lucien Febvre, Georges Lefebvre and, not least, the Sinologist Marcel Granet, a follower of Emile Durkheim whose major work, La Pensée Chinoise, appeared in 1934. Characteristic of this approach is the triple stress on collective attitudes (mentalités collectives); on structures of thought (cadres mentaux); and on change over the long term (la ...

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